It is simultaneously fun and repulsive reading the hysterical reactions to the LibDem surge.  I haven’t even turned on my Bloglines account to read Guido, Dale, CoffeeHouse et al.  My better-edited reaction will be online with a newspaper in a few hours; the theme is how the Tory reaction reveals their nauseating sense of entitlement to power.

The backlash will come in various forms.  I can’t make much sense of Hopi, with his premonitions of the forces of hell.  Hopi, simple truth from someone far less experienced than you and therefore not at all entitled to giving simple truths: hell is being ignored; getting 5% of the media coverage when you get 20% of the vote.

[My best guess for what has happened post debate is NOT that the world learned how Nick is an orator that combines the best of Cicero, Nye Bevan and Withnail .  All that has happened is that he has had exposure, and people who don’t normally ever think about politics, people who might have slept-walked into the idea that the only way of saying NO to the Labour party is giving a grudging uncomfortable Yes to the Tories, have learned otherwise.  A cat out of the bag moment; once un-ignored, hard to ignore again quickly.

This effect works within the LD’s too; it is much easier to put up a poster or knock on the door when feeling a gust of pride in your leader.]

On with the reaction.  People are beginning to notice the perverse seatwise consequence of some polls:

Translating a 32/31/28 share of the vote into seats suggests the effect in the next House of Commons would be the exact reverse of the way people voted. Labour would come out as the largest party, with 277 seats, 49 short of an overall majority. The Tories come second on 226 and the Lib Dems get half that on 118. No doubt Lib Dems will say this simply exemplifies their arguments that the voting system is unfair. But any second the Tories will start shouting that a vote for the Lib Dems will put Gordon Brown back in Number 10.

The risk identified by Sam Coates here is a very real one.

Two pieces of excellent Big Society scepticism.  Bagehot:

the Tories’ revamped communitarianism has weaknesses too. The most obvious is that it elides two phenomena that may prove unconnected: a consumerist desire for ever-improving public services, and people’s willingness actually to do something to improve them. Are community groups really going to spring up to, say (the Tories do), manage local libraries? It is doubtful whether the incentives Mr Cameron is offering are strong enough to galvanise them. Indeed, his party’s faith in an imminent frenzy of civic activism rather contradicts another of its mantras—that British society is “broken”

Then there is the LRB review of Red Tory (hattip Paul Sagar)

Cameron badly wants to win the election, and a big idea, however tainted its source, however underexamined and ill-thought-out, is a useful thing to brandish at the electorate, especially if it provides a cloak of nobility and ‘ethos’ for the old Conservative ambition to take a cleaver and sunder the connection between the words ‘welfare’ and ‘state’. Stripped of its obscurantist rhetoric and foggy sermonising, Red Tory issues a moral licence to government to free itself from the expensive business of dispensing social services and to dump them on the ‘third sector’ of charities, voluntary organisations, non-profits and the like. It won’t make Britain a more virtuous, civil, courteous or moral society. It certainly won’t restore us to that happy state of grace and comity in which, apparently, we all lived in medieval times.

Is this why the Big S has gone missing?

Camilla Cavendish takes what is sounding like a tired line already: Hung Parliament Chaos.  This is so arrogantly anti-democratic that it is hard to know what to say.  Britain has not enjoyed a majority of sentiment behind one party for a while – I would argue that early Blair enjoyed it.  So for reasons of executive single-mindedness are we to be punished with total power in the hands of those with a third of the mandate?

1970s comparisons, as are inevitably trotted out,  are very far from relevant. The problems there were as much with the horsetrading within a dysfunctional Labour party, as with the Liberals.   Read Cairncross &Burke.

I agree with her that there are holes in the LIb Dem plans, as there are with all.  I don’t think the Euro looks like a good idea now, and it would be good if Nick pointed out this pragmatic truth.

Martin Ivens has similar problems with Lib Dem plans

What is left of a detoxified Tory party that is so proud of this approach to crime?

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9 thoughts on “Backlash watch

  1. I think the significance of the big society going missing is that not many of the Tories’ core headlining policies have much at all to do with the big society idea. The immigration cap, the marriage and inheritance tax breaks are all entirely traditional and predictable and the NI package was an on-the-hoof response to the Lib Dem tax plan, and a way of outflanking Labour’s budget. All the dedicated big society stuff, the network of volunteers and the young people’s voluntary national service, looks like rather a closed loop and is too recent to have had a chance to bed in alongside the longer-standing policies. The only area that seems to me to genuinely straddle the boundaries of core policy and big idea are the free schools, and oddly enough it’s the Tories themselves putting that part of the narrative in danger by harping on about exactly what should go in the curriculum.

    1. Brilliant answer which I will one day nick from.*

      Their need to dictate a patriotic history curriculum is one of the most odious policies (Civitas promote something like this). I like the LRB observation that the Tories somehow expect the whole of the UK to resemble Ambridge by 2035

      *the attribution in advance technique

  2. My Norwegian partner told me that a minority government would be good for Scotland once the parties got used to it, since it had worked well in Norway for most of the time since WW2.

    So it has been, although it has taken years for Labour to come to terms with their bereavement, and the LibDems were just getting used to power when it was taken from them, and are probably least reconciled of all. The SNP has mastered the art, probably due to a brilliant leader in Salmond (reminds me of a less patrician Mandelson) and two extremely competent deputies in Swinney and Sturgeon.

    There is nothing I am hoping for more than a hung parliament in the UK, and I think that Mandelson will be a key player in the horse trading that begins on May 7th in that case.

    What interests me most is what will happen once the dreadful reality begins to be understood – hopefully only from observing bitter experience elsewhere – that the current economic consensus of an economics of scarcity, and the need for austerity sooner or later, is based upon complete bollocks assumptions.

    The fact is that unless the current wealth inequality is addressed by systemic fiscal reforms which are not even conceived of by any of the parties (although Red Toryism and mutualist Blue Labour are in the right direction), then the financial system will at best be in permanent zombie mode, and at worst (under Voodoo economics of the Tory persuasion) lurch into recession and depression.

    I look forward to observing the parties – and economists like you – get to grips, in their different ways (if they ever do), with the necessity for a Plan B based upon different economic assumptions to the currently shared purely ideological assumptions which have led the economy into this disastrous position..

  3. The best form of defence is attack. Whilst Clegg seems to have mastered the simple, swift rebuttal to attacks on us, we have to ruthlessly thrust the points of attack on them where it really hurts. Good point is Tories entitlement to have their turn. A better example of parties working together is WW2. The Scottish experience shows how parties and media have to grow up, and “weakness” or “chaos” is less likely – because they who force a second election would be severely punished without good reason to call it, and look what happened to Ignatieff for even threatening it.

    On Trident, how can Labour afford it! Get real, our defence is working with allies, not some phallic symbol of the past! I’d really like to see Clegg come out with that to slap down Ainsworth.

  4. ‘ Despite his Anglo-Saxon name, Nick Clegg is by blood the least British leader of a British political party, the son of a Dutch mother and a half-Russian merchant banker father. ‘
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/election/article-1266677/ELECTION-2010-Clegg-plays-Northerner-really-posh-Dave.html

    The Daily Mail attempt to smear him as not really British was a disgrace even for them. In fact, it would not have looked out of place on a BNP leaflet. Their poison really does taint our society.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. And what would they have written about Churchill, half-American that he is?

  5. “I don’t think the Euro looks like a good idea now, and it would be good if Nick pointed out this pragmatic truth.”

    He has already, for example in his interview with Jeremy Paxman.

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